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What Are the Different Types of Homemade Xylophones?

Megan Shoop
Megan Shoop

A xylophone is basically an instrument featuring an array of resonant pieces that emanate a certain note when struck. Most professional xylophones are made from metal bars carefully machined and screwed loosely onto a metal or wooden frame. Those that want to explore this instrument without the cost of purchasing one can make a number of homemade xylophones from household materials. A homemade version can be made from bottles, glasses, pipes, or even different sizes of wrenches.

Glass and bottle instruments are among the fastest and cheapest categories of homemade xylophones. To make a bottle instrument, the musician simply needs five to eight glass bottles of the same shape and size. These might be soda bottles or beer bottles — either way they should be clean when the musician starts building the instrument.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Each bottle must be filled with a different amount of water and gently struck with a xylophone mallet to test the note. An electronic tuner can help the musician figure out how much water he or she needs. If a tone is sharp, the bottle may be emptied a little. Flat notes may require a little more water. When finished tuning, the musician can cork each bottle and line them up to make them easy to strike.

Glass homemade xylophones are typically made of drinking glasses. Instead of mallets, the musician rubs his or her finger around the rim of a glass. The glass vibrates, resounding against the water inside it. These homemade xylophones may be made out of a single type of glass or from many different types. An electric tuner comes in handy here, too.

Plumbing pipe may also be used to make homemade xylophones. Copper and aluminum pipe resonate longer, but plastic pipe sounds a bit like bamboo when struck. The pipes should be cut to different lengths for each note. Longer pipes make deeper notes, while shorter pipes make higher ones. The same holds true for diameter, allowing musicians to make very simple or very complicated homemade xylophones from pipe. These pipes should be rested on a wooden frame, nestled between sets of nails or screws. They should wiggle a little in their places, meaning they’ll be able to vibrate and create plenty of sound.

Wrenches are possibly the easiest and fastest homemade xylophones to make. The musician only needs a full set of wrenches since they’re already usually cut and sized perfectly to make the necessary notes. All a musician must do is arrange them by size across the opening of a narrow wooden box and strike them to find what note each wrench makes.

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